Creative Work: ‘Riding an Elephant with Pierce and Emma’ by Lucy Raby

Creative WorksThis weeks work of creative work comes from one of the Kingston Creative Writing MA program students, Lucy Raby.  Straddling the line between real life and the literary world, we delve into the head of a writer, playing around with the concept of imaginary friends and the process of reflecting on a work after it has been finished.  She delights in the optimism and energy of a piece that has been completed after so much time has been invested in the world your characters have created.  Sometimes, we take these characters with us, without even meaning to.


Well, this summer has been most eventful. I’ve spent several weeks in an Indian jail, where I’ve had the inevitable shits and been beaten up with a bag of oranges by a huge gang leader bully. I am currently staying in the swankiest possible five star hotel in Pune, surrounded by unimaginable luxury. But this is not to last; shortly I will be setting off on a long and uncomfortable train ride to the middle of nowhere, where the journey will be continue by elephant, (although my supervisor is not sure about the elephant bit), and God knows what misfortunes will befall us on the way. Armed poachers? Monsoon floods? Tiger attack? A stampede of rogue elephants?

And all the while, I am travelling with Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan. Yes! They are charming company and I am really glad I cast them in the roles of my two main protagonists. They spark off against each other quite wittily. The chemistry is ‘there’ as they say. Although this time, they are not playing a divorced couple, only an estranged couple. Emma and Pierce do not know yet that they are playing the lead roles in the film version of my book, (called The Elephant Trail, if you’re remotely interested), but I am sure they will be delighted to take it on….

… this is the point where I have to stop daydreaming and carry on with my dissertation. Silly woman! Seriously though, casting actors in your head this way is brilliant. ‘Such fun’, as Miranda’s Mum would say. Try it. It really helps you visualise your characters and brings it all alive. It’s a technique that Robert McKee advises screenwriters to use, but it works for any kind of storytelling. As the Great Guru says, stories are a metaphor for life, and characters are a metaphor for people. If you use an actor rather than a real person it will be more likely to resonate and stimulate.

So, anyway – I have reached the 25,000 words mark now and I’m wondering when and where to stop. Do I get on the train and go off into the blue yonder with Ems and Pi? Do I do a bit more research for the next bit of the story? Have already read loads of books and the internet has had a proper bashing, with pages of links for the bibliography. Sadly the trip to India is not an option, although I have travelled a bit there and can dredge up some memories. Or do I go back now and make all those changes and revisions that have occurred to me along the way, or been suggested by my fellow students and my supervisor?

At some point, all of us will have to select the 15,000 words chunk that will be our dissertation, under the guidance of our supervisors, and start refining it. Under normal circumstances, all of us would be thundering along to the end of our narrative, without even stopping for petrol, to complete a first draft, before going back to revise, rewrite and edit. Some of us may even have got right to the end. I certainly haven’t.

Either way, it’s been a fun ride so far. I wish all my fellow students the best of luck. And elephants are lucky, so I hope my luck stays with me too.

Writing can be stressful, but there is also a positive energy that comes out of completing a piece of work.  You translate a part of yourself onto the page and, upon later reflection, something wonderful resonates inside you after knowing that you gave birth to something creative and wonderful.  

Check back with us next week for more exciting stuff!

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